Tuesday, 18 December 2007

‘A Sword From Red Ice’ – J.V.Jones (Orbit Books)


It’s been a few years since the last instalment of ‘The Sword of Shadows’ series and it’s felt like it’s taken more than a few years to read ‘A Sword from Red Ice’! There’s a lot of catching up to do which means that there’s a lot of story to be retold and many familiar faces to revisit…
The first two books set up some pretty elaborate plot threads and these are continued with varying degrees of closure. Ash March continues to discover her powers, as the ‘Reach’, but must break free of a trap that is sprung around her. While this is happening, our ‘hero’ Raif Severance fights long and hard to prove to himself that he is capable of keeping true to just oath (having broken all others). His journey will take him in search of a sword that will help protect his people and fight against the menace from the Rift… It’s not just all about Raif and Ash though; we get to meet Vaylo Bludd, Raina BlackHail and Marafice Eye amongst others.
While this book was, on the whole, an enjoyable read it was also hard going and a real chore in places. In fact I almost gave up on it in several places, which was a shame as I’d really been looking forward to it. The ‘Sword of Shadows’ books are one of those series that demands your full attention and does an exceptional job of placing the reader right in the middle of the story. ‘A Sword from Red Ice’ is no exception. I really felt that I was there questing with Raif or sharing Vaylo Bludd’s struggle to protect his grandchildren. Some of the battles are visually stunning (the Siege of Ganmiddich for starters) and it makes for great reading that a skirmish between small groups receives the same level of attention as a fight between thousands. For such a large book there is a strong sense of progression and Jones is not afraid to send her story down dark paths in order to get the results she desires. I’m looking forward to the next chapter on the strength of this book.
So why did I have such trouble finishing this book? Two reasons. As I’ve already said, this is a thick book with plenty to get through and take on board. It felt at times as if Jones felt the need to tell everyone’s story to make up for the time it took to publish this book. There were times when I got lost trying to keep track of everyone, especially when you don’t see them for a couple of hundred pages. One character only appeared in the second and final chapters and I completely forgot about him for the rest of the time. It was almost like he had been placed there just to remind us he was still around. Because of things like this, the story sometimes felt unwieldy and difficult to get into. The other reason is more down to my personal tastes. In a book containing multiple points of view you’re never going to like every single one. I couldn’t stand the chapters about Effie Severance, they didn’t serve any purpose for me and just felt like they were markers so we wouldn’t forget about her. These chapters were the main reason why I kept putting the book down and reading other stuff.
I think ‘A Sword from Red Ice’ is a transitional novel that bridges a lot of gaps and will feel like a more cohesive read when the next book in the series is released. I enjoyed it but there were some particularly frustrating elements that, on occasion, spoilt it for me. Like I said though, I’m still looking forward to the next book in the series.

Seven out of Ten (just that little bit too good to be a ‘Six’)

14 comments:

Peadar said...

I'm close to the end of "A Fortress of Grey Ice" and already looking forward to this one. Sounds like I need to gird my loins for war!

kendall said...

Thanks for the great review--good to know what to expect.

BTW, sorry to nit pick, but "transitory" means short-lived. Since you said it took a while to read, that sounds weird; did you mean it's a "transitional" novel (or something else entirely)? ;-)

Graeme Flory said...

Oops... Edit made and face appropriately red :o)

Cheers!

Aidan Moher said...

You finished!

Yay!

~Aidan
A Dribble of Ink

Graeme Flory said...

I sure did! :o) Took me long enough though... My next read is going to be a lot shorter!

AJamison said...

I liked your review although I am curious how long is the book? Was it longer then say Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks. That was a long book (to me anyway)

Graeme Flory said...

My copy weighed in at an impressive 613 pages. Some of the chapters felt like they were a lot longer. Off the top of my head I can't remember how long 'Sword of Shannara' is...

Chris, The Book Swede said...

Nice review! I've been having a bit of trouble with this one myself :D

As for the "transitory" typo, I do that all the time! I said something like "worthy of multiple praising adverbs..." which makes no sense, really! Luckily, no one's noticed and it was months ago. Phew!

Have a good holiday! I've just said my goodbye's to everyone over on the blog :) Looking forward to the next!

~Chris
The Book Swede

AJamison said...

it is bigger then Sword of Shannara then that was 400 something if I remember correctly so that has at least 200 pages on that wow that is a long book.

AJamison said...

431 pages to be exact in the Sword of Shannara at least in the trilogy edition with all three books in one binding.

What is the first book in the series this book follows

Robert said...

There some rule against giving it a 6.5?

Graeme Flory said...

ajamison - the first book is 'A Cavern of Black Ice' and 'A Fortress of Grey Ice' is next.

Hi Robert!
There's no rule against giving it 6.5 , I just thought it was a little bit better than that (and I don't want to get into fiddly little fractions like six and seven eighths out of ten). I think there are a few 'half scores' here and there.

Ooks said...

the main thing i was disappointed about with this book, was that i thought it was the final in the trilogy, and i believed it would tie up alot of loose ends...instead it just cut more threads loose, and who knows how long until the next installment!! I do like J.V's writing though, can tell a good yarn.

Briony May Smith said...

This is a really good review and I agree with most of it. I think that J.V Jones is so intent to please all her readers that she's created characters which bore them. I can't stand Penthero Iss, or Macrafice Eye, and Effie seems like a tedious little character whose upcoming involvement for the plot in 'Watcher of the Dead,' didn't need so many chapters devoted to her. I grew so tired of these characters (where much of their story does not like to the main plot) I started skimming. Ah! Terrible to admit. Desperate for the next one, roll on April 15th. I think I'll need the summary at the beginning quite desperately beforehand though.